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What You Need To Know About The Costs Of College

College Costs

As you’re building your college list, there’s no limit to the things you will consider. Is your major a program at which the school is particularly strong? Is it a cool college town? Big time football on Saturdays? Is the campus safe? Is it clean?

Depending on your VIPS, what you are considering is specific to you.

But there is one aspect that you all think about.

And that’s cost.

Let’s be honest here, there’s nothing to like about college costs. They have risen at astronomical levels over the last few decades to the point where students are graduating, on average, with over $26,000 in debt.

And that’s an average.

Back in the late fall, I wrote a post about the difference between a college’s sticker price and the real price that families pay. I then followed it up with a post about understanding your EFC. If you haven’t read them already and don’t know what EFC is, take a minute and check them out and then come on back.

There’s a lot of things to cover in the college search, but if you don’t understand the costs of college and how to reduce them, you could be in for a big time let down next year when your financial aid award shows up. So, outside of figuring out your EFC, here are a few things you can do to help yourself:

1. Don’t pay attention to sticker price:

Look for net price and, specifically, the net price for families in your income bracket. If your family’s income is over $100,000 you don’t want to be looking at net price for families whose income is only $50,000.

2. Figure out just how admissible you are:

Based on grades and test scores, look at who the college admits. Then take a good, hard look at yours. Are they similar? Sort of? Not close? The easier it is for a college to admit you, the better (read BIGGER) your award will be.

3. Check out merit awards:

Some colleges publish the amounts and qualifications of their merit awards (free money) on online and the information is easy to find and understand. Your GPA and SAT score combination earn you X amount of dollars. Others, not so much. Look it up and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, call the admissions office.

I already spend a lot of time on cost issues with the families I work with and, moving forward, I will be dedicating more of my blog to these same issues as well. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Have something to say? Use the comment box below or email me at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com. If you think this makes a lot of sense, consider sharing it with someone you know.


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10 Things You Need To Know About The FAFSA

As we head into the end of January, high school seniors and their parents are filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). While some of them might be done or just about done, ten things every family needs to know about filing the FAFSA:

1. It’s free. If you end up on a website that requires a fee to file the FAFSA, you’re in the wrong place.

2. It’s THE form required by ALL colleges which award federal aid. No FAFSA, no federal aid.

3. Both the parent and student need to obtain a PIN at www.pin.ed.gov before filling out the FAFSA.

4. For current seniors, the FAFSA has been available for filing since January 1st and the deadline is June 30, 2014. Yup, that’s right, 2014. Keep reading.

5. It runs on a July to June calendar where July 1st marks the “New Year.”  In other words, current high school seniors who intend on starting college this coming fall should be filing the 2013-2014 FAFSA.

6. To be considered for state grants, Connecticut residents must file by February 15th.

7. The FAFSA determines your EFC, your expected family contribution. This is the amount of money colleges will expect you to pay for one year of tuition, room, board and fees.

8. This EFC calculation is based on income and assets, not retirement money or home equity.

9. When parents are divorced or separated, the FAFSA is calculated on the parent who the student lives with for the majority of the year, the custodial parent.

10. When the custodial parent is remarried, the income and assets of the step-parent are included in the FAFSA calculation as well. It’s a federal law.

And the item I remind parents of all the time? You don’t need to have your taxes filed to fill out the FAFSA. Just enter an estimation based on the previous year. Then, when your taxes are filed, use the federal data retrieval tool to upload final information.

Have something to say? Use the comment box below or email me at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com. If you think this makes a lot of sense, consider sharing it with someone you know.

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Don’t Let Assumptions Lead You Astray

My seniors have most of their application work done and my juniors are starting to explore programs, potential job shadows while trying to get a grasp on just how much college is going to cost them.

It’s an interesting time of year because I find myself on pins and needles with the seniors, hoping that we have done everything right and that acceptance letters will come their way shortly. With the juniors, it’s all about exploration and introducing them to the idea that they need to be good investigators right now.

Which brings me to my thought for today.


Don’t make them.


There is so much information to be had about colleges that to rely on something somebody once said as a reason to apply or not to apply is just foolish. I know we all have those people in our lives who tend to know a little about everything, but when this so-called expert on life tells you that you shouldn’t apply to a school because it’s an all-male school (when, in fact, it is not) or tells you that the professors aren’t any good (like anything in life, there are the good, the bad and the ugly but I refuse to believe that the entire roster of professors on any given campus are just the worst in the world) or that there’s no way you can afford it, I say it’s time to find out the truth for yourself.

This is YOUR college application process. Not your friend’s, not your uncle’s and not your parents. Yours. And you need to own it. Use the resources available to you to qualify information before you allow assumptions to lead you astray. Go the colleges’ websites and read up on their profile, their demographics and their majors. Use their net price calculators to learn more about what you might be able to expect financially. Go for a visit and sit in on a class in your intended major. If you can’t visit, check out a virtual tour or read student reviews on sites like Unigo or College Prowler.

Whether you do all of these things or just some of them, whatever you do, just don’t make assumptions.

If you have questions or would like some help with your college search and application process, use the comment box below or email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com. I would love to hear from you!

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Why You Should Know Your EFC

Last week I wrote a post about understanding the difference between net price and sticker price. Today, I wanted to carry the financial torch a bit further by talking about EFC.

EFC? What’s that you say? Another acronym?

Yup. The world of college admissions and financial aid is full of them.

EFC stands for expected family contribution. It is the amount of money you will be expected to contribute towards one year of your college costs. While it won’t paint the entire picture for you, it will serve as a starting point before you venture into how generous a school is with their aid. You won’t know your official EFC until after you’ve completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and, in my opinion, this is too late. You can’t fill out the FAFSA until after January 1st of the student’s senior year when decisions on where you are applying have already been made.

Rather, you should know your EFC before you start getting too deep into looking at colleges.

Parents of freshmen, sophomores and juniors, I’m talking to you.

For example, let’s say your EFC is $25,000. If you are looking at a college where the cost of attendance is $55,000 you can immediately see that you will be hoping to get $30,000 in aid. Conversely, if the college’s cost of attendance is $30,000, you shouldn’t be expecting much of anything outside of the basic student loan.

In the case of the former, $30,000 is a big difference to make up. The next step is to understand just how generous a school is and if they are going to help you out. Typically, the biggest factor in whether or not a college is going to offer you a financial aid package that meets your need is how competitive you are as an applicant.

Do yourself a favor and obtain your estimated EFC now. Write it down, understand it and use it when you are researching schools and want to know what a school is going to cost you.

If you have questions or would like some help figuring out how to reduce the cost of college, use the comment box below or email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com. I would love to hear from you!

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